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    Species: L142

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    Species: Chromis viridis

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    Species: Diodon holocanthus

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    Species: Hemibragrus wyckioides

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    Species: Hemigrammus anisitsi

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    Species: Laetacara curviceps

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    Species: Marine section

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    Species: Micropoecilia parae red melanozona

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    Species: Neolamprologus leleupi

  • Species: Outdoor section

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    Species: Pterapogon kauderni

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    Species: Puntius padamya

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    Species: Puntius sp odessa 2

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    Species: Terapon jarbua

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    Species: Firemouth cichlid

Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor

Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor is a relatively new addition to the Maidenhead Aquatics chain. At first glance the store looks quite small, but that’s deceptive, and the store actually has a surprisingly wide range of fish and dry goods on sale. On our visit we saw quite a few fish that are hardly ever traded as well as lots of reliable bread-and-butter stuff. We were also impressed by the range of special offers, including a huge stack of aquarium books going for just a pound a piece! These included most of the popular Interpet Guide series, as well as some more advanced books covering topics such as stingrays, koi and seahorses.

Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor is on the Dedworth Road about two miles east of Windsor town centre, within the Wyevale Garden Centre. There is plenty of free parking in the front of garden centre. Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor is easy to get to by public transport. Bus route 77 runs between Windsor town centre (the parish church stop) and the Tinkers Lane stop at half-hourly intervals, the trip taking about 15-20 minutes.


The marine section at Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor is quite large and includes a good range of community and reef tank species. Included in the range of marine fish on sale were wimplefish, long-nosed hawkfish, flame angelfish, green chromis, banggai cardinalfish and false percula clowns, all species that do well in captivity and present few problems if given suitable care. We were pleased to see tubes and mounds of coral rubble had been set aside for those species that need to burrow. There were also lots of nice soft corals and polyps on sale, as well as some hard corals too. Among the soft corals was a simply enormous leather coral crying out for a good home! The corals were all nicely arranged and clearly priced, and most appeared to be in very good condition, with their feeding tentacles extended and little sign of stress or ill-health. The range of invertebrates ran from standard stuff like peppermint shrimps and spiny black brittlestars through to oddballs like fighting conchs and arrowhead spider crabs.

A few of the fish on sale on our visit to Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor would definitely come under the heading of being challenging species for advanced aquarists only. The larger angelfishes commonly fit under this heading, as do most of the triggerfish. the long-spined porcupinefish (Diodon holocanthus) was one species we saw on sale that really needs to be sold with a health warning! It’s a massive fish, up to 50 cm in length when fully grown, and has an equally huge appetite for invertebrates and white fish fillet. Needless to say this fish puts a heavy strain on any filtration system. Adults will require systems around the 750 litre mark with 250+ litre sumps. Oddly for such big and greedy fish Diodon are notorious for slipping into periods when they refuse food, perhaps through the stress of being confined in too little space. Vitamin deficiency if given only thiaminase-rich foods like prawns and mussels may also be factors. Providing a variety of foods and using a good quality vitamin supplement alongside those foods is essential. As with all puffer-like fish, high nitrates can cause long-term health problems and need to be kept substantially below 20 mg/l.

Community fish

We saw a very wide range of community spaces on our visit, including lots of different tetras, barbs, rainbowfish, livebearers and Corydoras catfish. The tetras include Buenos Aires tetras (Hemigrammus anisitsi), a robust and adaptable species noted for its tolerance of quite hard water and generally forgiving nature when maintained by beginners. It also does well across a broad range of temperatures, from 18 to 28 C, and as such may be suitable for subtropical communities where heat-sensitive fish are being maintained. On the other hand, this species is a distinctly nippy, especially when kept in insufficient numbers, and does require some plant material in its diet otherwise it’s likely to peck away at the aquarium plants as well as slow-moving tankmates.

The South American cichlids known as acaras are a collection of small to medium-sized species that are towards the low end of the scale in terms of aggression. The sheepshead or flag acara (Laetacara curviceps) is one of the best known, and at about 8 cm in length when fully grown almost qualifies as a dwarf cichlid. It isn’t hard to keep provided the water is soft to moderately hard, slightly acidic to neutral. Like most acaras it dislikes very warm water, and is best maintained between 22-25 C, and as such works well with neon tetras, black phantom tetras, Corydoras, and other South American fish that find warmer water stressful over the long term. Although generally hardy and easy to keep, it is sensitive to Hexamita infections and hole-in-the-head. These are best avoided by providing a varied diet and ensuring that nitrate levels are as low as possible, certainly below 20 mg/l.

The odessa barb (Puntius padamya) is one of the most popular community tank barbs, though its origins are somewhat mysterious. For a long time supposed to be an artificial variety bred in Russia, hence the name, current thinking is that it is a true species native to one small region of Burma. Males and females are clearly distinct when in breeding conditions, males having a bold red band running along their flanks that the females lack. However, juveniles as well as males less than happy with their surroundings (as can be the case in tropical fish shops) may adopt colouration resembling that of the females. This can be a real problem with odessa barbs because the males are semi-aggressive fish that will harass one another unless kept in a very large group (a dozen or more) or in a very big aquarium (250 litres or more). Maximum length is about 8 cm, usually a bit less. Like most of the other boisterous barbs this species is a ‘nipper’ and shouldn’t be combined with slow-moving or long-finned fish. It is happiest in tanks with soft to moderately hard, slightly acidic to neutral water. It dislikes temperatures above 25 C. Keep in a group of at least six specimens, with females outnumbering the males.


Over a dozen tanks at Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor were set up for livebearers, including lots of different varieties of guppy, molly, platy and swordtail. These fish thoroughly enjoy the hard, alkaline water typical of this part of England, though it’s worth remembering that while fancy guppies and domesticated mollies prefer relatively warm water (25-28 C), platies and swordtails need to be kept a bit cooler (22-24 C). This means that while they’re all good fish for community tanks where water chemistry is appropriate, they are not necessarily at their best when kept together in the same aquarium. Platies and swordtails work best with those fish that also enjoy relatively cool conditions: neon tetras, Corydoras catfish, Ancistrus catfish, danios, many loaches and most barbs. Guppies work better in warmer conditions, so they’d do better with fish that also enjoy warmer water, such as gouramis and Corydoras sterbai. One problem with guppies is that they’re prone to being nipped at by tetras and barbs, and angelfish may even view small male guppies as food, so some care has to be taken when adding guppies to community tanks. Mollies are big enough to do well with all sorts of companions, but they are sensitive to water quality when kept in non-brackish conditions. Ideally, they should be kept with tankmates that won’t mind the addition of a little salt, fish such as rainbowfish, glassfish, halfbeaks, Asian killifish and Hoplosternum catfish.

As well as Endler guppies, one oddball livebearer at Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor of particular note was (Micropoecilia parae). This is guppy-like fish comes from northeastern South America where it lives in coastal areas. Although it lives in ditches and streams, these are sometimes brackish rather than fresh. Micropoecilia parae gets to about 3 cm long and has a more streamlined body shape than the average guppy. Females are plain silvery-green and a bit bigger than the males. However, the males occur in five different colour morphs, and the morph on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor is the one known as Red Melanozona, probably the most attractive of the five morphs. This has a bold orange-red band running along the flanks with black bands above and below. Micropoecilia parae is not especially difficult to keep, and can thrive in both brackish water and hard, alkaline freshwater conditions. A moderate temperature around 25 C is recommended, plus gentle filtration, for example through the use of an air-powered sponge filter. Breeding isn’t difficult, but the fry are very small and may be difficult to rear without tiny live foods (such as brine shrimp nauplii and microworms).

L-number catfish

The staff at Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor are very keen on L-number catfish, and there were no fewer than seventeen species dotted about the tanks. These included Acanthicus adonis L155, Baryancistrus ‘golden nuggets’ L018, Pseudacanthicus sp. ‘scarlet plec’ L025 and Peckoltia sp. L288. This was on top of a good variety of standard loricariid species including Ancistrus bristlenose plecs and Otocinclus catfish. We should mention that some of the common names didn’t match the L-numbers being used, scarlet plecs being down as L144 for example, when L144 is actually a species of Ancistrus, but the common names were generally the right ones, so these typos shouldn’t really phase seasoned catfish keepers.

Oddball whiptail catfish are among the more under-appreciated L-numbers. Unlike many of the other L-numbers, whiptails are small, sociable, and make excellent additions to small and medium-sized community tanks. Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor had lots of red lizard whiptail catfish (Rineloricaria sp. L010A), and these sociable catfish would make a great alternative to Corydoras. They only get to about 10 cm in length, and most of that is their long, thin tail! Singletons are shy, but if kept in a group of three or more specimens they are lively, bottom-feeding catfish that consume things like bloodworms, algae wafers and catfish pellets. Like all whiptails they’re more carnivores than herbivores, so as algae-eaters their impact will be minimal. But as neat bottom-feeders, they’re colourful, unusual-looking fish well worth keeping.

At up to 25 cm Baryancistrus sp. L142 is fish for the larger community tank, alongside midwater species as rainbowfish, silver dollars, Congo tetras and non-aggressive cichlids. Its bold body colouration -- black with big white spots -- is very striking. Juveniles have proportionally larger spots than the adults, but unlike some of the other white-spotted plecs, even the adults have relatively large spots, adding somewhat to its value. This species favours middling to high water temperatures, from 24-28 C, so tankmates should be chosen with that in mind. But otherwise this striking species isn’t difficult to keep and will work well in any large, well-filtered community tank with good water quality and lots of oxygen. It’s omnivorous, so needs a varied diet that includes both meaty and plant-based foods. Algae wafers provide a good staple that can be augmented with prawns, bloodworms, courgette, cucumber and sweet potato. Unlike the whiptails mentioned above, Baryancistrus sp. L142 is territorial towards its own kind and other catfish.


We saw a good variety of cichlids on our visit to Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor, including a good number of Malawians, mostly mbuna, and a few Tanganyikans. Among the Central American cichlids were some juvenile jaguar cichlids (Parachromis managuensis), firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki) and the firemouth relative Thorichthys ellioti.

Central American cichlids have been a bit neglected in recent years, being overshadowed by the more colourful Rift Valley species, but for aquarists after hard water cichlids they’re well worth investigating. Thorichthys ellioti for example is a medium-sized (to 15 cm) earth-sifting cichlid very similar to the firemouth. All Thorichthys species are relatively mild fish that resort to bluff rather than actual combat when being aggressive towards one another, hence the famous red throat of the firemouth cichlid. Thorichthys ellioti lacks the red throat but still expands its gill covers when displaying, and compared to the firemouth, is a bit less aggressive as well. It’s a good choice for medium to large tanks with midwater dither fish such as swordtails and rainbowfish that appreciate similar moderately hard to hard, neutral to basic water conditions. Robust catfish like Hoplosternum and Hypostomus should work fine, assuming there are sufficient hiding places to go around. Firemouth cichlids can also do well in mixed-species tanks, but being a bit bigger (up to 20 cm) need proportionally larger quarters and tend to be more territorial and when spawning quite a bit more aggressive. All Thorichthys species are diggers, and do best in tanks with smooth silica sand rather than gravel substrates. Because their ‘bark is worse than their bite’, Thorichthys do poorly when combined with most other Central American cichlids.

Ponds and coldwater

The outdoor section at Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor offers goldfish, koi and various aquatic plants. We saw a good selection of marginals, true pond plants, oxygenators and floating plants, including the water chestnut (Trapa natans), perhaps better known for its role in Chinese cooking. Water chestnuts are frost-sensitive and don’t do well left outdoors all year round. Pollination and fruit-production depends upon warm, sunny weather. During a hot summer these plants produce large (edible) fruits that sink to the bottom of the pond. In spring the seeds germinate and eventually baby plants rise the surface. Normally though water chestnuts are annual plants best treated as attractive novelties.

Besides the coldwater fish outdoors, there were tanks inside the shop holding fish suitable for unheated aquaria. These included paradisefish, darters, minnows, bitterling and Sewellia hillstream loaches.

Specialist fish

A surprise in the marine section was the targetfish (Terapon jarbua). These unusual and strikingly marked fish get to about 15-20 cm long under aquarium conditions. They are boisterous animals and must be kept with fish able to keep out of trouble. Pufferfish of similar size can work well, as can things like monos and damselfish, provided the monos have swimming space and damselfish can dart into the rockwork. The problem is that targetfish are naturally fin-parasites, so slow-moving fish tend to be viewed as potential meals. Oddly, targetfish are territorial when young but schooling fish once they get older, about 10 cm or so in length. Otherwise targetfish are tough fish for large rough-and-tumble brackish water or saltwater communities. They eat all sorts of chunky, meaty foods, and like most brackish water fish are very hardy and easy to maintain.

One of the coolest fish on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics at Windsor is the Asian red-tailed catfish (Hemibagrus wyckioides), also known as the fish without fear! Notoriously bad-tempered, this is a species that attacks anything and everything kept with it, no matter how well-armed or well-armoured those tankmates might seem to be. Even glass heaters will be destroyed, and rocks and bogwood will be routinely moved about. On the other hand, few fish have as much personality, and though Hemibagrus wyckioides is wildly destructive towards anything placed in the tank, hard-core catfish enthusiasts rate this species among the best catfish in the hobby. It’s certainly very beautiful, with a sleek velvety-grey body and smokey-red tail. Maximum length is around a metre, typically a bit smaller in the case of aquarium specimens, but wild fish are reported to reach lengths of 1.3 metres. Obviously, a fish for only the very largest aquarium. Otherwise not a fussy species; Hemibagrus wyckioides does well across a broad water chemistry and temperature range, and eats a wide variety of prepared, frozen and live foods.

At the other end of the size range is Oryzias mekongensis, a tiny killifish-like ricefish from the Mekong river system. These very small (less than 3 cm long) schooling fish are essentially transparent except for their large silvery eyes and the golden sac around their internal organs. Wild fish inhabit thickly-vegetated ditches where they feed on zooplankton. Maintenance in aquaria is difficult because they just have regular feedings of small live foods such as daphnia and brine shrimp nauplii. Frozen foods and flake may be taken, but without live foods long term success is difficult to ensure. Basic care is comparable to that of lampeyes, with soft to moderately hard, slightly acidic to neutral water required, together with plenty of plants, especially floating plants, and very gentle filtration, an air-powered sponge filter being ideal.

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